Johnny Carson: The Family Parallel


I don’t know of one person who wasn’t saddened by the recent passing of Johnny Carson. Myself included.

I loved the guy. Didn’t know him at all, of course, but I felt like I did. That’s the kind of person he was. He always seemed much younger than his years let on. He was the grandpa I never had– the one who told funny stories and laughed in spite of himself. And he was always there (except on the nights when Joan Rivers or Jay Leno was there; then he was probably playing golf.) But still, he was a wonderful sight to see every weeknight.

A lot of interesting things have come out about Johnny Carson since, or just before, his passing. One of which was the fact that, over the course of the last ten years, he has been ghost-writing jokes for David Letterman. I thought that was somewhat cool… after all, after the big fight over Johnny’s spot went in Jay Leno’s favor, this was maybe somewhat of a way for Johnny to repay Letterman. In any case, both of them worshipped the guy and owe their careers to him.

The second was the fact that Johnny Carson died of Emphysema.

It was no big secret that Johnny smoked. In early shows, he smoked right on the air. Everyone did. It was the “cool” thing to do. “Sophisticated.” It made him look more powerful; more debonair.

This particularly hits home for me, because as I have mentioned previously, my mother also suffers from Emphysema.

It’s a horrible disease. It literally robs you of the ability to breathe. You simply are not able to produce a large enough breath in order to put oxygen into your bloodstream.

The disease is an excruciatingly slow killer. Imagine strangling someone. Oh come on, you know you have imagined it once or twice. But seriously, visualize this. Your hands are wrapped around a person’s neck and you squeeze, cutting of the air. Emphysema does exactly that, only it doesn’t do it in just a few seconds. It literally shuts down the body’s ability to breathe and produce oxygen, bit by painful bit.

My mom has been suffering the effects of Emphysema for the last 10 years. When she was diagnosed, she only had to use concentrated oxygen for part of the day. Now she needs it 24/7. If she didn’t have her positive outlook, I don’t know how she could have made it through those ten years.

Thankfully, Mom stopped smoking years prior to this happening. Many people don’t. In fact, some people continue smoking while breathing in the oxygen.

The point of all this is simple. Smoking kills. If you are smoking, please consider quitting. If you are quitting, keep it up. You will do yourself so much good by never picking it up again. I don’t know how anyone could even start.

And if you find you are having trouble breathing, or if you notice you are getting tired faster and faster as time goes on, please have a pulmonary function test done. The quicker you diagnose yourself for pulmonary disease, the better.

Apparently, Johnny Carson didn’t find out about his Emphysema until fairly recently. An earlier diagnosis could have saved him, if not for a long time, for at least a few years more. It’s sad that he had to die, but hopefully some poeple out there will hear his story and realize that they, too, could end up the same way.

It just scares me to think that my mom will have to go through what he went through someday.

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